"Hacking" your slow cooker - Spinoff to lead-free slow cookers - Mothering Forums

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Old 05-15-2008, 12:46 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm convinced there isn't an affordable way to find a cadmium and lead-free slow cooker.

However, inspired by the steel bowl Zojirushis I've heard about, I was wondering if it might be possible to replace the "crock" in an ordinary slow cooker with a heavy duty steel bowl, such as All Clad. The obvious problem is getting the right fit for the lid and --I'm guessing-- having sufficient contact with the bowl against the heating elements in the base.

Then it occurred to me that it might work if you used a larger slow cooker than necessary with a steel bowl small enough to fit in the crock to allow the lid to fit. You would probably need to have a small amount of water in the crock (outside the steel bowl) so it doesn't overheat and possibly crack.

This would probably affect the amount of moisture in the ingredients in the steel bowl. If I were to try this I would keep a close eye on it and check the temp at the end, using a meat thermometer, especially if the recipe contained any meat. Although I'd probably try a veggie or bean recipe the first time.

Does anybody see any flaws in this method? For instance, should I be worried about the moisture in the crock condensing to the inside of the lid and dripping into the steel cooking bowl, removing any moisture necessary to prevent the crock from "cooking dry"? If so, could this be mitigated by covering the bowl with foil with a couple of slit vents?

If it worked I think the only downside would be some wasted electricity from using an oversized slow cooker.

Or am I completely missing the point and is it likely that any cadmium or lead will leach into the water in the crock which will condense into the cooking bowl ... unless of course the foil cover keeps most of that moisture out?

I'd appreciate any feedback before embarking on this elaborate experiment.

~Cath
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Old 05-15-2008, 01:12 PM
 
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Why not just use a dutch/french oven on low?

I am always home when I use mine so the whole delay timer issue isn't one for me.
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Old 05-15-2008, 02:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Why not just use a dutch/french oven on low?

I am always home when I use mine so the whole delay timer issue isn't one for me.
Arduinna,
I had assumed a slow cooker would be energy efficient and that you can use cheaper cuts of meat and have them come out really tender.

More importantly, I work full time and DH does most of the shopping and cooking. He tends to over buy and cook too much food so there is a fair amount of waste. Last week I salvaged $8.00 worth of steak and froze it on or about the use or freeze by date. This is the third or fourth time I've had to do this in the past several months. More often he'll do something like cook 2 or 3 trays of lasagna and we wind up throwing a lot of it away.

Either he is truly overwhelmed with everything else he does (and he does a fair amount, including home repairs, yard work, trash, etc.), or he is completely oblivious, or it's a combination of both.

I think I've been pretty good about not preaching, but you know how that is he probably perceives any comments as nagging. So I'm at the point where I need to put up or shut up. Since I work full time the only way to have more input in the grocery department is to start doing some of the cooking. And since we eat shortly after I get home the best way to do that is with a slow cooker so I can prep the night before and put it in the slow cooker before I go to work.

Not to mention that I am hoping to save on the meat budget by cooking with re-hydrated beans.

~Cath
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Old 05-15-2008, 03:42 PM
 
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On problem I can see with the steel bowl thing is that I think part of what the ceramic liner does is distribute heat evenly. Steel tends to heat up right near the point of contact, ceramic stores and distributes the heat more evenly. With the steel I think you might get hot spots where food might burn and other spots where it doesn't get hot enough. This would be alright if you were there to stur it frequently but if you're not that you could be in trouble.

The steel bowl inside the ceramic liner might work better. I'm wondering about finding a smaller steel pot that fit's snugly inside the ceramic liner?

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Old 05-15-2008, 07:17 PM
 
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Yeah if you need the timer then it's the better choice for sure. Especially since they have the ones that convert to warm when the cooking time is up. I wasn't sure how important the timer was for your situation when I posted. Although if your oven is programmable ( some of the newer ones are) that is an option. Although I'm sure it's not heat efficiant.



What if you just lined the ceramic pot with foil and put your food in? You'd get the benefit of the even heating of the heavy ceramic crock.
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Old 05-15-2008, 07:33 PM
 
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Another problem I see with this is that at least on my slow-cooker, it clearly states that you can not put anything in the cooker w/o the ceramic liner in place. I think this would include water because the cooker part is not necessarily water-tight, (my has a screw in the bottom IIRC). So, while substituting a different "liner" might work, I don't think that having water in the "cooker" part is a safe option.
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Old 05-15-2008, 09:26 PM - Thread Starter
 
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... on my slow-cooker, it clearly states that you can not put anything in the cooker w/o the ceramic liner in place. ...
Norabella,
I agree, in fact I have no doubt that putting water in the aluminum base where the heating elements are would be an electrical fire hazard.

What I was trying to describe is finding a suitable metal bowl to replace the ceramic. But as another poster points out that probably wouldn't heat evenly.

However, I don't see anything here to rule out my alternate method of putting a little water in the crock, and putting a metal bowl holding the food in it. Except for the possibility of lead leaching into the water which will condense and wind up in the food. You could put foil over the metal bowl but then you might as well simply line the crock with foil if you could make the seams reasonably leak proof without using too much foil.

I'd appreciate any additional feedback.
~Cath
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Old 05-15-2008, 11:07 PM
 
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but aren't you concerned about using aluminum as well?? isn't that replacing one toxic metal with another?? just playing monkey plumber and throwing in my only wrench LOL

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Old 05-16-2008, 12:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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but aren't you concerned about using aluminum as well?? isn't that replacing one toxic metal with another?? just playing monkey plumber and throwing in my only wrench LOL
MM,
I thought the Alzheimers / Aluminum connection had been debunked. Or are there other problems with Aluminum?
~Cath
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:18 AM
 
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Except for the possibility of lead leaching into the water which will condense and wind up in the food.
You're talking about the water in the crock heating, turning to steam, and then condensing on the lid and falling into the steel container of food, yes? My brain is slow tonight, but if that's what you mean, then the lead won't go with the water. Steam distillation is a great way to get just water, without the contaminants in the water--I'm pretty sure I'm remembering that right.

When you try it, be sure to fill the crock high enough--check the user's manual, but since many types have heating coils along the sides of the crock, and not the bottom, you'd need the water level to be high enough to warm the water enough to cook the food.

I'm envisioning this MacGyver-style setup, so if you actually do this, can you take a picture and share? Sounds neat.
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:33 AM
 
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I've been thinking about this issue as well. I got a really cool, huge Crockpot with a timer etc and : it but I'm afraid to use it. I think my chances of having a lead-free one are above average, it isn't the green or red glaze and I thought that black was less likely to contain lead... but then I don't know.

My plan is to find someone locally (maybe the community college?) who can make a ceramic insert for it. That way it can match in size, shape, thickness, and I can be sure that it has no lead
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:39 AM
 
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This is the first I've heard of lead in crockpots. I have a very old crockpot - it's probably 30, 35 yrs. old. Is this an issue for me? Can someone post links? Thanks!
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:48 AM
 
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I don't have links, but here is all I know:

Pretty much all ceramic is suspect due to the glaze. I'm sure you know that though. There was a thread here expressing concern in this area, and some people shared that they had emailed Rival, who emailed in reply stating that there is NO lead used in the glaze for a Crockpot insert.

One poster had a friend who took her Crockpot insert to a local radio station, where they were testing items for lead at no charge. The result was that this particular insert contained a LOT of lead (4.6 if I recall correctly).

I'm not totally convinced either way. I'm not sure that Rival can legally just straight out lie to a consumer's direct query, and I'm not sure of the accuracy of the testing that was performed (were they using home lead testing kits? Those are notorious for false positives).

But my kitchen is completely free of ceramic, except for some bowls that a friend of mine threw for me years ago, which I know for sure are lead free... and my crockpot. All of my plates, cups, bowls are Corningware now.
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Old 05-16-2008, 03:10 AM
 
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MM,
I thought the Alzheimers / Aluminum connection had been debunked. Or are there other problems with Aluminum?
~Cath
I have heard that too, however, I see a lot of people around MDC are still concerned about it. I'd love to know if there are other problems or new research that is out if anyone has any links.
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Old 05-16-2008, 04:45 AM
 
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I'm curious about the KW of the slow cooker vs. the oven. I find crock pot food to be too mushy. Perhaps there is a secret I don't know, but that's my experience. I prefer to use the oven and the oven time to cook things for shorter periods of time. Of course, it doesn't help with cooking something for 8+ hours while I'm at work.

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Old 05-16-2008, 12:01 PM
 
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I prefer to use the oven and the oven time to cook things for shorter periods of time. Of course, it doesn't help with cooking something for 8+ hours while I'm at work.
I've wondered, but never tried, putting a Dutch oven with all the prepped food into the frig overnight and then putting it in the oven right before leaving--is there any way the timing could work out? Cold pan, cold food, oven just turned on--it should increase the cooking time, just not sure if it would be enough.
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Old 05-16-2008, 12:35 PM
 
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You're talking about the water in the crock heating, turning to steam, and then condensing on the lid and falling into the steel container of food, yes? My brain is slow tonight, but if that's what you mean, then the lead won't go with the water. Steam distillation is a great way to get just water, without the contaminants in the water--I'm pretty sure I'm remembering that right.
That would make sense, because I've read warnings that if you cook with water with lead in it, the concentration of lead in the water goes up as the water cooks off.
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:10 PM - Thread Starter
 
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... Steam distillation is a great way to get just water, without the contaminants in the water--I'm pretty sure I'm remembering that right.

When you try it, be sure to fill the crock high enough--check the user's manual, but since many types have heating coils along the sides of the crock, and not the bottom, you'd need the water level to be high enough to warm the water enough to cook the food.

I'm envisioning this MacGyver-style setup, so if you actually do this, can you take a picture and share? Sounds neat.
TanyaLopez,
I totally should have known that about the steam!!! The reverse is true of using boiled water for powdered infant formula. As the water heats and evaporates the water left behind has a higher concentration of lead than it did originally. Not because the amount of lead has increased but because the amount of water has decreased.

Soooooo ... any water remaining in the crock itself at the end of the process should have a higher concentration of cadmium, lead, etc. (by virtue of leaching from the crock, followed by evaporation) any condensation that falls into the the interior container that the food is actually in should theoretically have few if any contaminants.

Good point about any heating coils on the walls of the metal base.

If I do get around to trying this I might not have the wherewithal to take pictures. I have the digital camera and I now have a 21st century computer; I think it has the necessary "input" but I haven't actually tried uploading any pictures yet. But maybe this will motivate me to attempt it. If that ever happens I may actually work up the energy to list some of the more expensive baby items I have on Ebay (e.g: Amby hammock).

Thanks so much for the encouragement.
~Cath
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:22 PM - Thread Starter
 
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... I'm not sure that Rival can legally just straight out lie to a consumer's direct query, and I'm not sure of the accuracy of the testing that was performed (were they using home lead testing kits? Those are notorious for false positives).

But my kitchen is completely free of ceramic, except for some bowls that a friend of mine threw for me years ago, which I know for sure are lead free... and my crockpot. All of my plates, cups, bowls are Corningware now.
Skyastara,
Given the current state of Consumer Protection --especially with respect to imported items-- it isn't a matter of whether a manufacturer is lying or not. It's a matter of quality control. They may very well have a certain set of specifications for the company actually making the items. However, that doesn't mean the company with the name on the product is enforcing those specifications. In effect the producers are actually on the honor system.

Also, even though the specs for the glaze itself excludes lead you need to watch for weasle wording regarding the ceramic. For instance, Hamilton Beach's website specifically says there is "no added lead". So, if one or more of the raw ingredients contains lead then you are at risk even though there is no "added" lead.

An example everyone should be able to relate to is 100% juice with "no added sugar".

~Cath
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:47 PM
 
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I have put food on top of the stove in a LeCreuset dutch oven all day on low temperature, but am not confident enough to leave it there while I'm at work. I'd be more inclined to put it in the oven, but I'd bet that it would use more electricity than a slow cooker. I'd think that a smaller oven would work nicely, though.
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Old 05-16-2008, 01:52 PM
 
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They make plastic crock pot liners. In case you are less worried about plastic than lead. They are sold in the aisle with plastic baggies. Very wasteful, but then you don't have to clean!

I love my crockpot...not sure what to do with this issue.
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Old 05-16-2008, 06:12 PM
 
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Or what about those cooking bags? Put the food in there, then in the crock pot?
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Old 05-16-2008, 06:15 PM
 
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Here is the story in case anyone wants to read it

http://www.kutv.com/content/gephardt...3-447426ea4816
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Old 05-17-2008, 01:37 AM
 
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They make plastic crock pot liners. In case you are less worried about plastic than lead. They are sold in the aisle with plastic baggies. Very wasteful, but then you don't have to clean!

I love my crockpot...not sure what to do with this issue.
I would worry about that lead in those too... I'm not sure if those bags have it, but I know lead is used in plastics to make them pliable.
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Old 05-17-2008, 01:53 AM
 
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Skyastara,
Given the current state of Consumer Protection --especially with respect to imported items-- it isn't a matter of whether a manufacturer is lying or not. It's a matter of quality control. They may very well have a certain set of specifications for the company actually making the items. However, that doesn't mean the company with the name on the product is enforcing those specifications. In effect the producers are actually on the honor system.

Also, even though the specs for the glaze itself excludes lead you need to watch for weasle wording regarding the ceramic. For instance, Hamilton Beach's website specifically says there is "no added lead". So, if one or more of the raw ingredients contains lead then you are at risk even though there is no "added" lead.

An example everyone should be able to relate to is 100% juice with "no added sugar".

~Cath
Definitely. This is why I have no ceramic items in my kitchen anymore. I still think that I may try to find someone locally to make an insert to replace mine.

And I don't know about everyone, but I am definitely not more comfortable cooking in plastic than in possibly-lead-contaminated ceramic!
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Old 05-17-2008, 03:56 PM
 
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What about a Pyrex bowl? It's heat proof and is lead free (or is it?). I know for me, a stainless steel bowl would introduce other problems, because I am sensitive to nickel and all stainless steel has at least some nickel in it.

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